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How To Calm A Dog's Prey Drive


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Does your dog have a sky high prey drive? Does it feel like a handicap at times? I have good news for you. :)

 

I get questions frequently about this topic, so I wanted to share my solution to the problem. I believe that any dog can be taught to behave around animals they would otherwise see as prey.

 

You can accept that your dog has a high prey drive, or you can work to improve it. The choice is yours!

 

And remember, if you like the article or it helps you at all, please pass it along!

 

Calming a High Prey Drive in Dogs

 

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| Rachel | Dewty, Trigger, and Charlotte | Missing Dazzle, Echo, and Julio |

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Learn what your greyhound's life was like before becoming part of yours!
"The only thing better than the cutest kitty in the world is any dog." -Daniel Tosh

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Good article, thanks for sharing. It takes lots of time and consistency and the ability to never forget to be vigilant. Rona was very prey driven when she first came to me, but with time and patience has actually learned to ignore the small breed puppy next door when she comes over for a visit. Still, they are never left alone unsupervised. :ghplaybow

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I would be careful about saying "any" dog or even most dogs. Can every dog with very high levels of predatory behavior be taught to act appropriately around small animals? Maybe. Can it be accomplished with the resources and skills of most dog owners, or even a skilled trainer? In some cases, I'd say no.

 

I remember one greyhound in particular who was adopted by a friend of mine. You could have put a shock collar on that dog on the highest setting and it wouldn't have phased him if he were focused on something.

 

Not discouraging your overall message - it's always worth training toward a more desirable (and as you pointed out, safer) behavior for our pets, but it's important to remember that all behavior is on a sliding scale and with something like predatory behavior, a dog isn't ever really "cured" - we can never fully predict what might trigger a return of that behavior down the road.

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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I think every dog will have a different outcome. I agree with the above that there are some that should never be trusted. We started with some minor prey drive. It was pretty obvious because the is a rabbit in every bush around here. But Hester was the sort who wanted to please and got the message that chasing rabbits (and deer) was a no-no. Sometimes when he sees rabbits that he recognizes from previous walks, he will wag his tail in a happy greeting.

 

This is one rabbit Hester sees every couple of days on one of his regular routes. He seems to know it and alway goes over for a greeting. Moments before this photo was taken the rabbit was between his legs. I had to put his leash on and take him back to the lawn to get this photo (it was actually quite dark - almost night, hence the crappy photo).

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Edited by KickReturn
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I wonder if this is over simplified. It can take a long time, a lot of work, and lots of persistence, and I still wouldn't say that any dog could be made cat safe.

Edited by robinw

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Xavi the galgo and Allen the cat. Missing Iker the galgo ?-Feb.9/19, Treasure (USS Treasure) April 12/01-May 6/13, Phoenix (Hallo Top Son) Dec.14/99-June 4/11 and Loca (Reko Swahili) Oct.9/95 - June 1/09.

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Neither would I. And I wouldn't encourage people to test it with mine either! I think you can get to the point where you don't have fixation, frothing at the mouth, the thousand yard stare and that eerie whistle in the back of the throat, because we've managed that with Paige. Mine are retrievable if nothing moves. But once they move, it's all over red rover, and that's after 3 years of continuous training.

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I can completely understand the skepticism. For the first three years I had Dazzle, I accepted that his prey drive was just what it was. I knew that we had limitations and I accepted those, too.

 

Robin, you may not remember now, but years ago you shared a story about Loca overcoming her prey drive and, after much hard work, eventually becoming cat safe. That story was what kick-started me to challenge Dazzle and see if we could overcome it. And we did. And I've done it with every dog I've owned since, plus helped friends with their dogs along the way.

 

For three years I had a mental block that prevented Dazzle from proving me wrong. I didn't even give him the chance. But as soon as I saw past that, my dog was able to become a better version of himself. And that's what life is about! :)

 

I'm not an obedience trainer. I don't have access to special circumstances or situations that set my dogs up to be good at this. I just want them to live life as fully and freely as possible. Behaving around other people's small animals is one of those things that needs to happen in order to get them there.

 

Of course this is not a fast process. I do point out in the article the importance of taking time with the training. The timeline will be different for every dog, and obviously longer for the more challenging ones. I also stated in the article that good behavior around family pets doesn't necessarily translate to good behavior around every other animal. The point of this type of training is to ensure that your dog gets along with your other family pets (or any that you see frequently), and to be able to communicate to your dog which new small animals he is expected to behave around.

 

If you want to accept the limitations of your dog's prey drive, that's perfectly fine. No one will fault you. But a lot of dog owners out there want their dogs to be able to behave around small critters (and I know because I am asked about it all the time). I wrote the article for those folks, because I want them to feel empowered to do better by their dogs.

| Rachel | Dewty, Trigger, and Charlotte | Missing Dazzle, Echo, and Julio |

dewttrigsnowsig.jpg
Learn what your greyhound's life was like before becoming part of yours!
"The only thing better than the cutest kitty in the world is any dog." -Daniel Tosh

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I've posted the link to my FB group for the RGT branch I volunteer for, with just that in mind: many people are happy to manage their dogs accepting that they have a high prey drive, but there are those who want to try to work through things and - to be fair - many dogs who are capable of learning and adapting. I was amazed at what I managed to achieve with my high-prey girl Susan in the five months that we had her. I don't know if she'd ever have been safe enough to allow free running with non-sighthounds, but at least I was able to walk her through the village without her trying to kill other people's dogs!

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The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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I foster/rescue many small animals, and I have always had high prey drive dogs in my house. In all of the cases, the dogs were able to eventually adapt and live peacefully with the other critters in the house. In my experience, a big part of the training is simply daily exposure. My rabbits might be exciting to a greyhound right off the track, but most animals can only stay in a state of excitement for so long. The novelty of the rabbits wears off when they are in view all day, every day. :bunny 2 of my last 3 dogs have actually killed wild animals(including Teague), but were still trained to ignore my assortment of small animals, even when they are right next to them. This doesn't mean I let them run around free range together, but the dogs now pay very little attention to the other animals.

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As RedHead says ... our first had a good solid prey-drive and would chase and kill rabbits, hares, birds, mice etc, and yet behaved perfectly well with the smallest of dogs, even playing rough-and-tumble with them. He would stand back when they fell and rolled to wait for them to get up. He was also afraid of cats.

I can't take credit for that. He was a working Traveller's dog before we got him and they like to keep both sighthounds and terriers. He will have been accustomed to small dogs because he would have had to work with them. :)

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The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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In my experience, a big part of the training is simply daily exposure. My rabbits might be exciting to a greyhound right off the track, but most animals can only stay in a state of excitement for so long. The novelty of the rabbits wears off when they are in view all day, every day. :bunny

Yes! Yes x100. And it's usually the same for the other animal. Your bunnies, and in my case, my goats, will only be afraid of the dogs for so long. Once both animals accept the other as normal, training gets much easier.

| Rachel | Dewty, Trigger, and Charlotte | Missing Dazzle, Echo, and Julio |

dewttrigsnowsig.jpg
Learn what your greyhound's life was like before becoming part of yours!
"The only thing better than the cutest kitty in the world is any dog." -Daniel Tosh

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Guest normaandburrell

I really like this article. Iceman is not cat safe, and the neighbors have outdoor cats. So sometimes when he is doing his zoomies, he will get distracted by a cat. Mainly, the cats have learned not to get caught out in the open. We have done the first two steps, and need to go on to do the last two.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest pamburghardt

We have a new galgo who is so fixated on the chipmunk in the garden wall that he cannot catch that he is ready to dismantle the kitchen wall to get outside for more hunting. He is not in the least food motivated. He will have to learn to calm himself when he comes in from outside, especially at noon when the walker cannot stay for an hour waiting for him to take a nap. He clearly has a looong attention span when it comes to hunting. Any ideas?

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I may have said this already, but I clicked on your Trigger's Greyhound Data link because he looks so much like my Buck, but lo and behold, it's George he's related to via Oshkosh Slammer (George's sire)!

 

Carry on!


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Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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